Richard Horne was born in Coventry on 9 May 1960. He was the son of Henry Horne, a chartered surveyor, but his parents separated when he was two, and when he was seven Horne was sent away to a boarding school. "That was the making of me", he later recalled, "for all the wrong reasons": "We were hugely influenced by Colditz, with escape committees in the dorms, floorboards that prised up to store secrets. I was the map-maker and did things like forging weekend passes. The ingenuity of children is immense - and most grown-ups don't realise it." Bad handwriting at school turned his surname into the nickname "Horse", which later combined with the Damon Runyon character, Harry the Horse, to create his cartooning pseudonym "Harry Horse".
On leaving school Horne started work as a solicitor's clerk, but in 1977 he decided to leave Coventry for Edinburgh, where he hung around the university's art department and sneaked into life drawing classes. As he noted later, "If you look like a student, you basically are a student": "That was my philosophy at the time." He illustrated his first children's book soon afterwards, and in 1983 made an impressive debut as author and artist with "The Opopogo - My Journey with the Loch Ness Monster". Horne was also a devotee of Cajun music and played the banjo, having been involved with the formation of two bands - Swamptrash in 1987, and Hexology after Swamptrash disbanded in 1989. In Swamptrash Horne played as "Billy Joe."
From 1987 to 1992 Horne was also political cartoonist for Scotland on Sunday, and his illustrations appeared in the Independent, Observer, Vox and the New Yorker. In 1993, due to pressure of work, Horner left Edinburgh for London. He then created, designed, and wrote a cult computer game for Time Warner called "Drowned God", offering a conspiracy-based alternative history of the world. It took three years to develop, and Horne called it "the hardest work that I have ever done." "Drowned God" was launched in America in 1996, and sold over 30,000 copies during the first two weeks.
In 1997 Horne spent some time working as political cartoonist for the Guardian, but later admitted in an interview that "I started to lose interest around about that grey period just before John Major finished and Tony Blair took over": "I found it hard to turn from doing flopsy bunnies to starving children in Ethiopia in the same day. The illustrator won out in the end." Horne returned to Edinburgh, and by 2001 was working as political cartoonist for the Sunday Herald. He also contributed a weekly satirical cartoon entitled "Horsebox" to The Scotsman. However, as he told one interviewer, "I'm really sick of the political gag that actually just flatters politicians": "I'm not interested in the minutiae because that's what they want you to see...They want you to be distracted by the small picture, so when I do political cartoons I try to stay away from that."
Horne was known for his innocent bewilderment and dramatic outrage. "He railed like an Old Testament preacher," recalled a friend, "his anger a joy to behold": "And he looked the part too, dressed in long black trenchcoat, Napoleonic hat - his great-great-great-grandfather's, he said - big biker-style boots...For a while, he wore a Daliesque moustache which, bizarrely, seemed to complete the ensemble." According to his fellow cartoonist Martin Rowson, Horne was "intoxicated" by the smell of burning boats and bridges.
Horne met his wife Mandy in Shetland while touring in Swamptrash. She was their "No 1 fan", and they married in 1991. They lived together in the Shetland Islands, where in 2004 Mandy began to suffer severely from multiple sclerosis and Horne nursed her. They were both found dead at their remote bungalow on Burra Isle, on 10 January 2007, apparently as the result of a suicide pact.
- Vanessa Thorpe "Fable of a fat duck set to be bestseller", The Independent, 28 September 1997, p.5.
- David Belcher "Horse Power to Take us Places", Glasgow Herald, 2 February 1998, p.18.
- Harry Horse author profile at http://www.penguin.ca
- David Robinson "Follow Their Dreams", The Scotsman, 30 November 2000, p.8.
- Andrew Burnet "Canvassing Opinion", Sunday Herald, 3 June 2001, p.15.
- Teddy Jamieson "Cross-dressing Wolves: Man-eating Trolls", Glasgow Herald, 4 August 2001, p.14.
- Alan Taylor “A man Horse called”, Sunday Herald, 14 January 2007, p.4.
- The Times, 19 January 2007, p.63, “Richard Horne.”
- Daily Telegraph, 24 January 2007, p.23, “Obituary of Richard Horne Political cartoonist.”
- Stephen McGinty “He told me: My beautiful wife is dying and there is nothing I can do about it ...I'm in hell”, The Scotsman, 30 January 2007, p.4.